News of the Weird

Week of March 18, 2001


-- In a dispatch from a Chicago convention of "furries" (people, mostly men, obsessed with animals or animal characters), Vanity Fair magazine (March issue) profiled several people as typical of the 400 attendees: some who dress as animals (so passionately as to "become" the animal), or are sexually attracted to those who dress as animals, or are sexually attracted to stuffed animals ("plushies"), or who otherwise identify intensely, though nonsexually, with animals. Said one, "If a (high school animal) mascot walked into a room surrounded by naked women, I'd be thinking about the mascot." Furries typically scratch each other gently as a sign of affection and refer to nonfurries as "mundanes."

-- When Brian O'Dea, 52, touted his high-level marijuana-smuggling experience in his newspaper ad seeking a legitimate executive job, his phone "started ringing off the hook," according to a February report in Toronto's National Post (which ran O'Dea's ad on Feb. 19). O'Dea, who did a prison stint during the 1990s, emphasized his experience with "security" and international markets (and his ability to speak three languages) and his management of a $100 million enterprise employing 120 people.

-- Leonardo da Vinci's "The Last Supper" was the platform used in art pieces that opened in two cities in February to predictable controversy, in that Jesus was portrayed as a nude black woman ("Yo' Mama's Last Supper") by photo artist Renee Cox at the Brooklyn Museum of Art and as Mrs. Butterworth ("The Last Pancake Breakfast") by painter Dick Detzner at the Chicago Athenaeum (Schaumburg, Ill.). Cox said her work aimed to challenge the Catholic church's treatment of women; Detzner's piece was part of his ongoing work on corporations' dominance of society.

People Different From Us

Gary A. Wysong, 39, was arrested on an obscenity charge at the electronics department of a Meijer store in Middleton, Ohio, in January. According to police, Wysong popped his own hard-core pornography tape into one of the VCRs on sale and watched it for about five minutes before security officers, seeing that it was making other customers nervous, asked him to stop. Officers detained him for police when he ignored their request.

The New Pollution Industries

High priest of the Santeria religion Richard Rossie was arrested in Palm Beach, Fla., in January after he allegedly dumped a box of chicken carcasses (recently used in Santeria ceremonies) into the environmentally protected Intracoastal Waterway, where they were to be received by the ocean god Yemoja). And in January, a leak of 6,000 gallons of mineral oil at the Los Alamos National Laboratory seeped through the floor and drenched $2 million worth of lasers in a basement lab (Santa Fe, N.M.). And five days later, an Environmental Protection Agency field office revealed that an accidental overflow of 300 gallons of home-heating oil at an EPA research facility caused a minor leak into adjacent Narragansett Bay (Narragansett, R.I.).

Courtroom Antics

-- The Supreme Court of Canada reinstated child pornography charges in January against retired city planner John Robin Sharpe, 67, forcing a new trial on two counts of possession (one of which involves his own writings, "Flogging, Fun, and Fortitude: A Collection of Kiddie Classics"). Sharpe was unrepentant, however, demanding that kids be able to control their own bodies: "Do you think God made a mistake in the fact that kids reach puberty about (age) 12?" he asked a radio interviewer. "What is the purpose of that if not for kids to enjoy sex or have sex?"

-- In February, the lawyer for former FBI agent David Farrall said Farrall was not drunk the night he accidentally killed two people with his car on I-95 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that the .14 blood-alcohol reading was faulty, and that Farrall intended to prove that in a test in which he would drink and eat exactly the same thing he had consumed on the night in question (according to the bar receipt). In order to conduct the test, Farrall needed his judge's permission to drink alcohol, which is forbidden by the terms of his pre-trial release.

-- In January, Judge Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss of Britain's High Court announced that prominent killers Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, both now age 18, who have been in juvenile detention for eight years since sadistically murdering a 2-year-old boy, would be released within the year, given new identities to protect them from vigilantes, and freed without further penalty (except the penalty vowed by the victim's father, who said he would hunt them down).

-- Judge Peter Leveque recused himself from a case of sexual assault by a teen-age boy against a 3-year-old girl in Calgary, Alberta, in January after describing the case to a prosecutor merely as one in which "a young person had raging hormones." And Montgomery County, Pa., lawyer Roger B. Reynolds withdrew from a child sexual abuse case in January after quarreling, during a teen-age girl's testimony, with her concept of "bad touch"; said Reynolds, "(N)one of my women (ever) thought it was bad."

-- Recurring Theme: In March, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., ruled that Russell Weston, the paranoid schizophrenic charged with killing two U.S. Capitol police officers in 1998, could be forcibly medicated to attempt to stabilize his illness so that he might assist in his defense. Until the judge's decision, Weston's lawyers resisted the medication because once he goes to trial and is convicted, he is a good candidate for the death penalty, whereas if he continued to reject medication, he would likely deteriorate and never be well enough to stand trial (though ethically, physicians say, a doctor should never purposely make a patient worse). Weston is not the first person recently so conflicted; News of the Weird reported on an accused murderer housed since 1996 at Bridgewater State Hospital in Massachusetts for the same reason.

Least Competent People

Emery S. Pluff, 59, of South St. Paul, Minn., was arrested in February for allegedly robbing and molesting his wife (which he did, police said, pretending he was a stranger). For reasons not yet apparent, Pluff allegedly faked going to work on the morning of Jan. 30 and instead donned a black cape and a Halloween mask the family kept in the garage and entered the house, where he surprised his wife and dragged her into a back room. She apparently was not the least bit puzzled by her perpetrator's identity and asked Emery repeatedly why he was doing this. According to police, Emery replied, "I'm not Emery." Police said Emery then took some money from his wife and fled, winding up at work, where he was arrested.

Thinning the Herd

A high-school senior was killed, apparently playing a game of chicken with a San Francisco Municipal Railway street car (40 tons) just after midnight on Jan. 3. A 22-year-old man was accidentally shot to death on Christmas Eve after he placed a plastic cup on top of his head and consented to his friend's request to try to shoot it off (Aurora, Colo.). A 24-year-old man was killed in a police chase that reached 105 mph, begun when the man drove over lawns in a residential neighborhood at 3 a.m. and ended when the man drove through three fences and accidentally off a cliff (Plainview, Texas).

Also, in the Last Month ...

A University of Mississippi pharmacy professor continued to seek drug company funds for trials to test his mild "medicinal marijuana" suppositories. A 37-year-old man was arrested and charged in connection with the recent disappearance, one at a time, of more than 100 stepladders in a small town (Jeffersonville, Ind.). A 38-year-old man was arrested, and his warehoused arsenal of guns seized, after he was spotted in a city park taking target practice at a photo of his mother-in-law (Brooklyn, N.Y.). Two high school teachers were suspended and charged with giving a student higher grades in exchange for price breaks on groceries at a store where the student is a clerk (Canonsburg, Pa.).

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